Thanksgiving at the Farmhouse
Penny and the dogs and I took the route across Vermont and New Hampshire on backroads to the Farmhouse the day before Thanksgiving, to avoid the holiday traffic. It was good that we did, 'cause the turnpikes and freeways were jammed. Our load this time was a few more boxes of books, plus our new 10KW generator. I'd picked it up in Concord, NH, on the way back the last time, and hauled it all the way to Albany and then back again. The Farmhouse is already wired for a generator, but the tenant took his with him when he left last year. Once we get it hooked up to the system, we'll have our own emergency power to cover us during the winter storm outages. Two years ago, the bad ice storm they had in the area left the Farmhouse without power for nearly three weeks. Now, we're prepared.
Didn't do a great deal during the long weekend - had office work to do most of the time, and Penny had lots of pre-Christmas book orders to handle. Did make four cable runs to the upstairs bedrooms from the attic control panel. Also had Thanksgiving dinner with son Jim and his family, at a wonderful restaurant in York. Shared leftovers with Dot and Ed at their place the day after, and met some of the neighbors.
I don't really have much for the Journal Entry this time, so decided to include for everyone a copy of a little booklet that I did several years ago. Several people at the Crabtree Family Reunion in October had requested copies, and this is the easiest way to get copies distributed. These are yarns that my father spun about his childhood in Effingham, NH - I compiled them pretty much as he had dictated them into the tape recorder. They give a good picture of life in a small rural town around the time of World War I and the years right after. I've also included some of the photos and illustrations from the booklet so you can see what my father, grandfather and grandmother looked like. Enjoy!
Uncle Charlie's Tapeworm
and other Effingham yarns
as told by Allen F. Crabtree Jr.
Chapter 1 - Introduction
Much has been made of our modern mobile society and the related "back to the country" movement, as if this were all something newly discovered by the present generation. The stories that we hear of the "good old days" are interesting, but not terribly relevant to all the problems of today's world, so people would have you think. But are they really?
The following pages tell of good neighbors and bad, community pillars and local characters, well-to-do folks, and those not so, hard work and memorable fun times; all of these are seen through the eyes of a city boy transplanted with his family to the wilds of a small New Hampshire town.
Allen Frederick Crabtree Sr., an upholsterer, had been born in Orono, Maine on August 24, 1861. He was the son of John Dyer Crabtree, a carpenter from Bangor, Maine. In his travels as an upholsterer, he met and married Laurina (Lena) Petersen, a Danish girl 12 years his Junior, from Vaerslo, Denmark, and late of New Denmark, New Brunswick, Canada (near Great Falls, N.B.).
Allen and Lena had four sons born at different places around New England as Allen traveled from job to job:
John (April 6, 1904 ) at Worcester, Mass.;
Allen Jr. (Oct 3, 1906) at Orange, New Hampshire;
Charlie(Nov 31, 1908)Canaan Center, New Hampshire; and
Frank (Jan 4, 1915) at Cambridge, Mass.
The Crabtree family moved one more time, from their house in Cambridge, Mass. at 200 Bank Street, and the nearby upholstery shop on Putnam Square to the small farming town of Effingham in east central New Hampshire, in the spring of 1916.
Effingham, or originally Leavittstown, was contained in a grant made by Masonian Proprietors on June 28, 1749. The Town was incorporated as Effingham on August 15, 1778. In 1831, part of the town lying north of the Great Ossipee River was incorporated as the Town of North Effingham, an area of 7,000 acres, the present-day Freedom, New Hampshire.
The first settler in Effingham was James C. Dearborn who came from Stratham, New Hampshire in 1768, followed by Walter Avery in the spring of 1769. Other settlers moved in to the area and cleared the forest, building farms, roads and a community. The First Normal School in New England was built in Effingham in 1820 and used till 1845. The New England Masonic Charitable Institution building, now housing the Effingham Town Hall, was built in 1861o The Masonic Lodge was instituted in June 1855. Buildings were built substantial, to withstand the rigorous winters, and reflecting those settlers' sturdiness. Many of the original buildings are still lived in today as they were more than 100 years ago.
Population and the amount of cleared farmland peaked, and then waned with a loss of small family farms around the turn of the century, as families moved away to better farmland or away to the city. Effingham remains small today, a few hundred folks, but the town has experienced a steady growth of both summer and year-round population, as people move to return to the country and a simpler way of life.
These stories are in my father's own words, as he tells about his life in Effingham from age 10 until 17, when he left town to seek his fortune. I wonder what stories some present-day city boy or girl will have about growing up in a small town to tell their children?
Chapter 2 - Moving to Effingham
When we lived in Cambridge, Mass., and I was then about ten years old, my father's health wasn't too good. The doctors told him that he had a year to live, and in order to live that year he would have to get out of the city. That would have been around 1916. So my folks bought the old Sanborn place in Effingham, New Hampshire through a real estate agent named Nelson Marsten. They had bought it sight unseen by mail, from a picture that he sent them.
The house was up on the side of Green Mountain on the road that goes by the old Normal School, and just before you get to the old Town Pound going in from Lord's Hill. It was in the spring of the year, May, and I remember us coming up on the train from Boston. Mother had stuff for us to eat and drink on the train; I never had so many cookies in my life. We got in to what used to be Mountain View Railroad Station in Center Ossipee around nine o'clock at night.
Marsten was there to meet us with an old Model T Ford touring car to take us over to the house on the mountain. He had a kerosene lantern on the front of the radiator for light. When we hit the hills beyond the Normal School my father and brothers Charlie and John and I got out and walked behind the car going up the hill. My young brother Frank was only about a year old, so he and mother stayed in the car. As a lot of the cars did then, it would kick and yank and jerk, and every once in a while it would sputter and bang, and then there'd be a ball of fire come out of the exhaust pipe. Of course, being city kids, we were pretty scared because we thought there should be alligators and boa constrictors and grizzly bears and what not out there in the dark along side of the road ready to come out and grab us. But they didn't and we finally got up there to the house.
My folks had shipped up all of their stoves, furniture and dishes, and all that stuff ahead of time, and that was at the house. Marsten dumped us off and took off. My mother had brought some candles in her handbag for light, and my father started a fire in the fireplace. While my mother started getting something for us to eat he opened some of the stuff and set up beds. The dishes were packed in barrels, and we couldn't get right at them, so mother made tea in a little tin pail over the fire in the fireplace, and we had Kennedy common Crackers. They're a round cracker and she'd split them open, put them in the tea and then spread sugar on them on a plate. Every once in awhile I still get a craving for them served that way.
During the night there was a noise, and my father, on noticing I was awake, said "will you come with me?" and I said "Sure" I didn't know where he was going. It was pitch black, so he gave me a candle he had lit and went rummaging around and somewhere he found the top rail of an old bedstead. We went down the cellar stairs and I held the light, and on the way down you could hear this "chonk-chonk-chonk". I didn't know what it was, but was imagining all sorts of wild things. Well, it turned out to be a porcupine, and so my father killed it with that old bedstead and then we went back to bed.
The big surprise came the next morning when we got up and went outside. Boy, was that house a mess! The picture that the guy had sent to my mother and father wasn't anything at all like what this house was. The windows were busted and most of the walls and doors were cracked, and lots of shingles and clapboards were coming off. It was a mess, but even more, structurally the house was completely different from the one in the picture; we'd been gypped, all right!
The next day I walked with my father down into Center Effingham. It was a long walk, but we found out about the Clough place being available. Father and I walked down towards South Effingham where the place was, on the South River, and we looked the place over. The door wasn't locked or anything and we could walk right in. It was in pretty good shape, so that night mother and father went over to Freedom to talk with the doctor who owned it, and ended up trading the place on the mountain for this place, the Ben Clough place.
The following day, my father got Charlie Sprague from Center Effingham to come up to the Sanborn place with a team of horses and a hay rack, and they loaded all the stuff and moved it down to the ben Clough place. So started my education from a city slicker to country boy!
Chapter 3 - Moving Into the Red House
We settled in to the Ben Clough place, which we called the "Red House", and my father then got work at the Rockingham Hotel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, doing over the furniture there. My brothers, mother and I soon started to get used to this new, at least for me, country life.
Leon and Mildred Marsten were neighbors, down at South Effingham on the main road, and John Chase and his wife Hannah Amelia Boise Chase, the school marm, lived just down the road from the Red House, on the hill above the South River. Up the other way were the Clough's, up on the turn, then Mel Nutter, and then Jim Wilkins place. Farther up the road towards Granite you came out at Clough City and the Wilkerson Brook.
When we first moved in at the Red House, all us kids seemed to spend most of our time at the Clough's. Calvin and Hattie Clough had two boys, Fred and Lester; Lester they called Bunny. The men all chewed Apple Jack tobacco, a brand of very thin plug tobacco, and they were always chewing and spitting.
We used to go up there practically every night at milking time to watch, we were barefooted most of the time, like all kids were then, and we'd all be standing there watching them milk and the first thing we'd know there would be a squirt of tobacco juice hit us on the toes, or they'd squirt milk at US.
Old Calvin was a little short fella, I don't think he was over five feet, and the two boys were a head and shoulders above him. They used to mow that meadow by the house by hand, because it was so soft you couldn't put a horse on it. So many times I watched them mow; Old Calvin would be the lead man and the other two would be just one swipe behind his heels with their scythes. Then, when the hay was cured, they'd pull off the stuff on poles. One day we were down in the meadow watching them and something got inside my shirt. I didn't know what it was, and the only thing I could think of was a bee. Old Calvin came over and said to me "Whit's the matter, son?", and I said "Ow, I think I've got a bee in my shirt." He unbuttoned my shirt and there was this big grasshopper crawling around on my bare skin, so he took it out and squirted tobacco juice in his hand and then rubbed it on my belly and said "Well, that will take the sting out of it."
In the spring they'd go out to the back of the barn where their pigs were kept, to haul out manure for the garden. They'd back a dump cart up by the window, which was about two foot square. It used to be comical to watch them pick up a forkful of manure and try to throw it through the window into the cart from inside the barn, cause they'd miss about every throw. We kids could never figure out what was wrong. Every once in a while one of them would disappear and come back with a pitcher and a glass, and they'd all have a drink. We then found out later that it was old doctored up cider they were drinking, and it was getting pretty hard about springtime. Down in their cellar they had seven or eight barrels horsed up. Later, when we bought their place we took the barrels out through the bulkhead and busted them up to burn. They were full of corn and prunes and raisins and thin strips of beef steak that they had put in to cure and pep up the cider. I guess it must have been effective from the way it used to throw their aim off. Calvin Clough eventually sold us his place and moved down below Taylor City.
When we moved in, my father decided to replace the clapboards on the front. With the help of us kids he tore off all the old clapboards and got us new ones at Chase's Mill. Beneath the old boards were great sheets of birch bark for insulation. It's the only time I've ever seen it on any house, new or old or otherwise.
People talk a lot about the good old days, but things weren't always easy, and there were the usual share of shady folks then as there are now. We had a 17 acre woodlot up on the way to Clough City. My mother and we four kids would cut trees and saw them into stove wood. We had a pair of old automobile wheels and a kind of body on it to haul the wood from the woodlot over the hills down to the house. One time we had a wheelbarrow at the woodlot and cut and split a big lot of firewood. We hauled it out and piled it up by the road. We took one load home and were gonna come back in the afternoon and get the rest. When we went back, more than half of it was gone. We heard later from somebody that had gone by and seen one of our "neighbors" (tho not one of the ones I've told you about) loading that wood into his buggy and taking it home. We were pretty burnt up about it because sawing it with an old peg-tooth crosscut saw was a slow, hard job. ,However, being new in the neighborhood, mother didn't want to make trouble, so nothing was ever said about it. However, from then on each time we cut just enough to haul back with us, and no more.
When we had snow storms, we used to have a lot of drifts because of the open fields. Now of course it is all grown up to woods in most places. Whenever there was a big snowstorm, everybody that wanted to would take a shovel and go out and walk abreast about the width of where the horses would walk in the roads, and break down the drifts so they'd be no more than about knee-deep. That way the horses could get through the roads. Sometimes they'd roll the roads with a big snow roller once the big drifts had been broken down. The selectmen usually didn't have to ask anyone to go out and break the roads, and usually most people wouldn't bother about collecting any money from the town, but just let it go along to pay off their taxes. Then, after you had paid your taxes, why then, any surplus they'd give you in a check.
For years I carried the mail from John Chase's corner clear up as far as Jim Wilkins' place. I got 25 cents a week from each house. The mail didn't come in until around supper time at night, and every time you would stop at a place, they were having supper and they'd pass you out a piece of cake or a nice hot raised biscuit of something like that. I used to think that was pretty good, getting paid and fed all at the same time.
I used to work for Jim Wilkins. I remember working up there when I was just a kid and he was clearing off a piece of woodland that he'd bought across the road, and I got 10 cents an hour. I worked up there for 9 hours that day. He'd cut the brush and I'd pile it into piles and then he'd burn it later on after the snow came. When it was all over I was pretty tired, and I had blisters on my hands. He gave me a dollar bill, and I said "I haven't any change, Jim.", and he said "You can owe it to me. Some day I might want you for an hour. But," he says, "if I don't think about it, why, Just forget it." So I had a whole dollar of my own for 9 hours work and I was a pretty happy kid.
Jim Wilkins' wife' s name was Tilly, or Aunt Tilly to everybody around the neighborhood. One Summer Aunt Tilly's sister Florence was there for awhile, and of course her daughter Trudie (or Gertie) was there. She was a little girl at the time, and I had quite a crush on her (and later married her - see Chapter 9). Grammy Davey, that's Aunt Tilly's and Florence's mother, also came up. I'd drive my mother and Grammy Davey in the wagon out to the Ossipee plains to pick blueberries. Those were the days when you could fill a couple of ten quart pails in a short time without any trouble; the berries hung in big clusters and the fields and the woods were just blue with them. I can still remember how my mother and Grammy Davey used to be picking along side by each, and they'd be singing hymns.
My father had a nice tenor voice, and we kids more or less picked up music from he and my mother. At night during the summer when things were all quieted on down, when we were at the Red House, we'd sit out in the yard singing together. Sometimes Calvin Clough and his family would hear us and they'd join in. Those were some fine evenings.
We had a quartet here in town. Mel Nutter was bass singer, my father sang tenor, and John Chase sang a thing in-between; I guess you could call it maybe a baritone. They got me in it, and we used to sing around the neighborhood quite a lot back in those days.
I later got an autoharp and I got so that I could play fairly well on it, and different things that they had at the South Church, I used to get stuck to play the autoharp.
Chapter 4 - Doctor Leavitt
Dr. Leavitt lived at Lord's Hill and doctored everybody around town. He had a little black mare that was 30 years old that he used with his buggy or sleigh to make his house calls. In the cold months, he wore a bearskin coat that went almost down to his shoes.
Each spring he would come to every body's house, and he's say "Get me two or three saucers" and he'd go down in those pockets of that bearskin coat and haul out a handful of pills all different colors and sizes and shapes, and he'd split them up in different saucers, and he'd say "Well now, you take one of these, and take one of these, and every so often".
There were green pills he used to bring in the spring for everybody to take. They were supposed to flush your kidneys out after the heavy winter. At the time that he came around there was still snow on the ground because in those days they didn't plow the roads, they'd roll them with a great big roller drawn by three or four pair of horses. So us kids, when we'd be going to school, would take a leak up against the snowbanks. What would come out of you was green, so we'd stand there and make designs on the snowbanks. It was quite a sight all the way along the road; you could always tell where Dr. Leavitt's green Spring pills were being dispensed.
My brother Charlie began one night having convulsions. They started about an hour apart, and then they kept getting closer and closer together. The first one he had my mother hollered for me to bring in a clothespin and said "I want you to help me. I'm going to open his mouth and I want you to put that between his teeth and hold it so he won't bite his tongue." I was scared stiff because I didn't know what was wrong with him.
In the morning we had Dr. Leavitt come down to check him over. He said "I don't know what's wrong with this boy", and my mother says "I think he's got a tapeworm. Do you have something that we can give him to drive the tapeworm?" The Doctor said "I have something, but the stuff I've got is for an adult and I wouldn't dare to give it to this boy because he's too young. He wouldn't be able to stand the effects from it. Just keep a watch ofhim and see that he don't chew his tongue if he has any more of these convulsions".
The Doctor left and finally Charlie got to sleep. Mother then dug out a big can of pumpkin seeds and a pair of paring knives, one for me and one for her. She said "I want all these peeled and the meats put in this dish." So that's what we did. Every spare minute I had I was peeling pumpkin seeds, and when Charlie was hungry, all he got to eat was pumpkin seeds. He could have water, but no milk, just pumpkin seeds and water. Charlie got so he didn't even want to think about the word "pumpkin seed". But anyway he ate them, and in about two weeks she had driven that worm from him. We measured part of it at over 60 feet long. After that, he began to get back on earth again, and he never had any more troubles with it after that.
The pumpkin seed "cure" was apparently an old Danish thing that she must have picked up from her folks. That's one of the old fashioned kind of remedies that you don't often hear about, and people would probably laugh today if you mentioned it, but it did the trick.
My brother John worked at Fryeburg, Maine, when he got older and married. John's wife was staying with mother and us at home until her baby was born. One morning, about half past two, mother woke me up and said "I want you to go up to Doctor Leavitt and bring him down, because we're going to have a baby here." I had a Harley Davidson Model 74 motorcycle I'd bought used from the Maine State Police in Portland at the time. Well, I got on my old Harley, put a kerosene lantern on the front (there were no lights on it - it was a magnito ignition) and went up to Dr. Leavitt's on Lord's Hill. I woke the Doctor up and told him what was in the mill, and he said "I'll be ready." I said "Do you want me to hitch up your horse?" and he said "Well, how did you come up here?" I told him "On a motorcycle." He asked "Is there a place where I can sit on the machine?" and I said "Well there's a steel rack on the back, but there's no padding on it or anything." Anyway, he said he'd ride with me, so when he came out we went down to the barnand got three or four burlap bags for padding on the rack. He climbed up on the back end of the thing and we took off. He had his little black square doctor's bag they used to have; it was about a foot square and 8 inches deep. He put his right arm around me and held the bag with the other hand out over the side and we came down through the sand ruts to the house. He got quite a thrill out of it.
He stayed there overnight until the baby was born. In the morning, mother got him something to eat and I asked "Do you want me to hitch up the horse and take you home, Doctor?" He said "No, I'd like to ride back on that machine of yours." So I took him back up to Lord's Hill on my motorcycle. At that time, Doctor Leavitt was well on in his years.
Chapter 5 - South Effingham School
John Chase's wife was Hannah Amelia Boise Chase, our school teacher at the South School. There were eight grades in the school, all in one room. Hannah used to walk down to the school every day to teach with a big market basket that she took food in for her and us kids.
Hannah could never sing worth a nickel. No matter what she tried to sing when we had music, it'd always come out to the tune of "Little Brown Jug". Finally she hired Norma Wilkerson from over in the Pine River section to come down once a week to teach us music, which was a lot better.
I was the janitor at the South School when I was going to school. I used to get 75 cents a week for sweeping it out, keeping the fires going and having the place warm in the morning, washing the windows and the blackboards. Also I used to saw the wood for the stoves and got 75 cents a cord. That was a lot of hard work because it was always dry, hard wood and didn't saw too easy.
Every Friday, we all had to learn a piece of poetry and recite it. That was the worst day in the week for me because I couldn't stand there in front of people and talk real easy.
At recess, at noontime we had an hour. Leon Ward and I would grab our lunchbuckets and run like a son-of-a-gun up to the Cooper place on the mountain and eat our lunch while we were running. When we go there, we'd fill the buckets full with grapes (there were some beautiful Concord grapes up there) and then we'd run all the way back. We could eat grapes all the way back, and every time you turned around you had grapes to eat.
They used to have sliding parties here at night, with double runners on Chase's hill. At noontime during the winter when there was snow on the ground, Norman Taylor and I used to go up on Mary Brown's hill. We had a Flexible Flyer, and I'd lie on the sled, and he'd lie on my back and we'd come down that hill clear up to Melva Drady's house here, more than a half mile! Then we'd have to run like hell to get back to school in time so's we wouldn't be late.
One day we were going by the house and Hannah was sitting in a rocking chair in front of her bay windows at the Chase house, and Dr. Leavitt was in there pulling her tooth. In her lap she had a big chamber pot, all flowery and all. She wasn't one of those prim and proper school teachers, but the sight of our school marm with a chamber pot in her lap kinda tickled us kids. We never dared say any thing to her about it though; in those days the teacher's word was law!
Chapter 6 - Working in the Woods
If you didn't mind working off and on, there was usually work to do in the woods of one sort or another. Even though much of the land was cleared and in fields and pastures, there were lots of woods nearby, and John Chase's sawmill and the Maine pulpmills down on the coast always needed sawlogs and pulpwood.
When I was still pretty young, I was working in the woods with Jim Wilkins cutting Black Birch up on Mary Brown's mountain. It was icy that day, and I slipped, and my axe went in to the shinbone on my leg and cut it open, right through my gunning boot which had a leather top. Jim says "What's all this red stuff?" and I said "Well, I think I cut myself." Jim said "Sit up on that log there, and take your boot off." So I did and he pulled up my pant leg and pulled down my sock and he looked at it and said, "Well, I guess you did cut it, and that axe must have been sharp." "We sharpened all those axes last night, remember?" says I.
Then he took a big cud of tobacco out of his mouth and smeared it into the cut, and then took my handkerchief and wrapped it up, put the sock back on, and he said "You better go home and have your mother bandage it ", which we did. And that is about the first recollection I have of many years of working in the woods around Effingham.
When I was 13, I worked for John Chase. I used to go up the river and drive logs down into the mill pond at Chase's Mill where they were hauled up on the sluice into the mill to saw. That was quite a thing to ride a log coming down the river. You always picked out a big one to ride. When the mill pond got empty, we used to take a raft and go up and pull loose some of those that had got caught on the bank. If one had sunk, we'd fish it up, hook a chain on it, and tow it down behind the raft to the mill. Chase's Mill would run until around the middle of May, and then John had to let the water out because the meadows that were flooded back from the dam had to have the water drawn off so people could cut their hay.
Another time, when I was older, I drove four yoke of oxen (that's eight oxen) and hauled pulp from the Wedgewood lot over to Lord's Pond Landing. That stuff was thrown into the river in the spring and floated down to Bangor to the pulp mills that handled it.
Jim Wilkins drove a team of horses, and I drove a yoke of oxen, both for Mel Nutter, hauling boards from different places around here down to Burleyville, which is the East Wakefield railroad station. We'd go in at night by lantern light and load the sleds up for the next morning. In the morning we'd take off, go down to Burleyville and put the boards into a box car and come back home. One trip a day was all we made, but it was 9 or 10 miles down there, so it filled a day by the time you went down and came back.
I worked over in Maine one winter and walked eight miles every morning to work and every night back home again. I had to leave at half past four in the morning to get there in time to go to work. We worked up on the timber lot back of Luther Colby's place. There were two houses, side by each, Colby's and Knox's. Alonzo Knox lived up there alone; he was supposed to be working in the timber lot with us but he didn't show up too often.
We'd eat our lunch in Lon's kitchen, when it was so cold out. Alonzo was a young fella, in his 30's I guess at the time, but kinda queer I guess you'd say. One day he says, "Boys, why don't you come out and see my pig!", so we went out with him to one of the back rooms. Sure enough, there was this frozen pig standing up against the wall, with a bedsheet draped over him. When he needed a piece of meat he'd go out and hack out a piece. He always had a copper washtub cooking on the stove. One day he opened up this washtub, and oh, you should have smelled the smell that come out of that thing. He says, "Boys, here's some real stew. You fellas ought to try it." The stuff had gone sour, but he dished it up for himself and went to it like it was the best feed you could get. He also had an old five pound lard pail for making his tea. The inside of that pail was as brown as anything I ever saw, When it got full of grounds so's he couldn't get any more water in, he'd take it out and dump it, and start all fresh.
Lon was quite a character. He died when he was 40 or so, but I don't know if it was the stew or the tea that finally did him in!
I worked with Ralph Ward and the Ward boys in the woods, and I teamed with Ralph quite a lot. He was a powerful man and I really enjoyed working with him. When we were cutting timber, any log that we could get our arms around, we never used a peavey to roll, we just lifted it and threw it out of the brush onto the edge of the scoot road and then have the other crew pick it up and load it.
I worked with Ralph Ward also when they were building Emery's golf course. He and I would dig out or blast and haul away the rocks in the field and dump them down on the lake shore.
There was a stone wall that ran down across from Joe Emery's house; it was all covered with poison ivy, and we were supposed to move the wall. We started in down there with gloves on, but we both still got poison ivy so bad that we were laid up for a couple of weeks with it. We got all puffed up, just little slits for your eyes. Your face and body were just one mass of red blisters. Since then I've never had any trouble with poison ivy and neither had Ralph. I guess we got an immunization all right.
There was a cemetery right across from Joe Emery's house that they wanted moved. It was an old, old cemetery. I helped dig that up, and in some places were the grave was, all you'd find would be a gray streak or a blue streak. Once in awhile you'd find a few bones, and those were all put into individual boxes and they were eventually moved down to the cemetery in West Newfield. We were working one day with Rufus Edwards, and this skull rolled out of a grave and out of one of the eye sockets in the skull a little snake came out! Well, Rufie let a whoop out of him and took off, and you never could see him near that cemetery; I guess he ran by it if he had to go by it!
We were working on the golf course one day when Ed Emery brought in a couple of dynamite experts from DuPont to show us how to blast out rocks. We had dug out a pretty good sized rock, and were getting ready to set a charge under it to blow it out of the ground. These guys took over, and put 28 sticks of dynamite under that rock. Ralph Ward says to me "These guys are all crazy." I said "Well, they're dynamite experts and we've got our orders, so let's just watch."
The day before, Alerd Ward had gone down to the depot and brought in two new steel stone boats. The "experts" brought these new stone boats up to the edge of the hole where the rock was and then they touched off the fuse. We went down in the woods out of the way, cause with 28 sticks of dynamite there was going to be quite a bang! Well, the rock come out of the ground all right, but it landed right on top of those new steel stone boats, and bent them right up double almost. Joe and Ed Emery had come to see the results of the blast, and when they saw the new stone boats, Ed says to them "Well, now, you fellas go up to the house, get your gear together, and John Borlan (he was the chauffeur) will take you to the depot. You go on back home and we'll let these fellas do it the way they've been doing it." Ed later said to us "Forget that you ever saw those 'experts'."
Chapter 7 - Fishing and Trapping
That first May, when we moved in to the Red House, my mother got Mel Nutter, who lived up the road beyond us, to come down with his team and plow up a section of the field behind the house, so we could have a garden. I remember those great big bay horses he had: Ben and Lion. While he was plowing, us kids were following along in the furrow and he said "Do you boys go fishing?' Well, no, we didn't know what fishing was, and he said "Look at all those worms. You oughta pick them up and use them for bait." So we got some tin cans and picked up the worms and must have had a gallon of worms there. We still didn't know anything about fishing, but we learned in a short time, because the South River was right down back of the house. That Summer we boys used to sneak off from hoeing the garden to go fish in the river. Mother wasn't any too happy if she'd catch us, but if we had any fish, it usually wasn't too bad.
In the South River, just below the bridge at the first big turn, there was kind of a deep pool. When I was 11 or so, I used to catch shiners for live bait for the city slickers that would come up to go fishing. A guy came up to the house one day and wanted to know if I'd catch him some minnows, and I said "Sure". I had a five gallon milk can that I filled with water and set on the bank. My rod was the top two sections of a steel telescope rod with about four feet of line tied on the top end of it, and a little small hook about the size that you'd have on a fishing fly. I used a small hook to catch these small shiners because they have such a small mouth. I'd put a little piece of worm on the hook and catch the minnows and take them off and put them in the milk can, and then the guy would come and pick up his bait.
Well, I had caught maybe a half dozen or so this day, and had tossed them into the can, and I baited and tossed the hook in again when something grabbed it. I gave it a yank and this trout came out of the brook and landed on the sand there, and I dropped the pole and grabbed him. Well, it was a 22-inch Brown Trout, and I'd never seen a fish that big before. I left the pole there and grabbed that trout and ran all the way up to the house to show my mother.
My brother Charlie and I used to go fishing with Leon Stevens. Leon's mother, Ida, smoked a pipe, and had for years, but was still real shy about people seeing her smoke it. Whenever anyoneˇcame to the house, she'd duck it into the pocket of her apron that she always had on, so's you couldn't see it. One day Charlie and I went overˇto get Leon to go fishing at the lake. Ida saw us coming and, as usual, hid her pipe in her apron pocket, but somehow or other, it must have spilt the ash, cause the first thing we knew, she was running around hollering with her apron all afirel. We got out of her way, and she managed to get the thing off and the fire put out, but she was very embarrassed. "Dod dem et", she says, "I bin smokena pipe all of my life. I doen't knew why I should hev to hide et now!"
I was with my mother and we were going down to East Wakefield with Ned, our old horse, and the express wagon that my father had made for us. We were going after grain and had some eggs and some butter to trade for groceries down at the Farmer's Union Store there, across from the railroad depot. At Sandy Pond, just on the other side of Woodman, going toward East Wakefield, there was a place where you could drive your team right through the water and then on out again. People going through there with teams used to drive on in and let their horses drink. It's a small pond and there are a lot of lily pads along the edge.
That day we drove Ned down in there and we were sitting on the wagon seat when I happened to look down, and there right next to the wagon was this big pickerel up near the surface of the water laying on the lily pads. I then said to my mother "Look at that big pickerel down there", and she said "Well, it's too bad you don't have a fishing rod with you." Then I remembered that under the seat we had a 14-inch monkey wrench that we kept in the wagon to loosen the nuts on the axles when we greased the wagon. So I reached down, picked up the wrench and threw it and hit the pickerel and stunned him. I jumped off the seat into the water, it was about knee deep, grabbed the fish, and put him in the back of the wagon. Then I got the wrench back and climbed in too. That pickerel was over a foot and a half long, and we had fish for supper that night.
There used to be a fella by the name of Henry Wilkinson. Henry had a Model T Ford truck chassis that he'd built a house on. He used to come up over to Clough City and stay in the yard where Charles Edwards lived, spend his summers fishing, and go trapping in the fall. They used the house, but they had their motor home there. Henry was 75 years old and had worked in the Haverhill hospital tool shop. He was born on the Wilkinson Road, and he taught me how to set traps for mink and also showed me how to catch trout in Wilkinson Brook. You could see trout 8, 10, 12 inches long laying in the pools there, and you couldn't get them to bite, but Henry showed me how to fish those holes and catch those fish.
My brother John and I used to walk out there three, four nights a Week to play cards with him and Mrs. Green. Sometimes it'd be ten o'clock before we'd leave, and we used to walk back home. When we came by that big rock where the headless man is supposed to be on moonlit nights, we used to kind of shy through there. We never happened to see that guy, and haven't seen him yet, but we were sure he was there somewhere just waiting to jump us!
In the fall I used to trap in lakes, in the rivers and all the brooks around there. One year I was trapping across from Mel Nutter's place where they used to bury horses and that sort of stuff. The foxes used to get in there and dig, and I had some traps set in there. One morning I went out to visit the traps and I could hear this yipping, before I got in to where I could see the trap, and I thought "I guess I got me a fox this morning."
When I got to the trap, I had Mel Nutter's bulldog by the front foot in the trap. Now, he was supposed to be a real ugly dog, and whenever anybody came to the house, they had to pen him up so's he wouldn't tackle anybody. I didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't dare to shoot the thing, and I didn't know that I dared to go near him to get the trap off him for fear he might bite me. I walked over and stood there looking at him, and he started to whine and whimper. I kept working closer and closer, and talking to him, and then he began to act kinda friendly so I finally got up there and got the trap off him. The trap had only caught him by the first joint and two of his toes on the front foot, and I think he was probably more scared than anything.
Once I let him go, do you think I could get that stinker to go home? No sir! He followed me all morning long, and finally I made a circle up around Mel's backyard and he dropped off there and then I went down through the woods to home.
Chapter 8 - Horses, Cows, and Cars
Mother bought her first horse from a Moss Huckins over in Center Ossipee, and I went there to bring him home. He was a big 1,500 pound black horse. Moss and I brought him out onto the barn floor, and Moss got a box and helped me onto the horse's back. All the horse had on him was a bridle and I didn't know how to steer a horse, but Moss told me "Pull on the left rein to turn left" and giddup and whoa and all that stuff. As soon as the horse stepped outside onto the grass, he stood still for a minute and kinda trembled, and the first thing I knew I was on the ground. So I went back into the barn with him and got on again. After he dumped me three different times, I gave up and started walking him the seven or eight miles home. When we came over to the brook at Clough City, I stopped to let him have a drink. While he was drinking, I jumped on his back. Well, he stood still and never moved until he finished his drinking. Then he got up, I backed him away, and we started for the house. I thought "Well, everything's all right now", but the minute he got into the middle of the road, he bucked me off again; I led him the rest of the way.
The funny thing about that horse, he was as gentle as a kitten, and you could throw a strap over his back, just any piece of leather, and you could ride him all day. But if he didn't have anything on his back, you didn't stay on his back either. We called him Ned, and he was a good horse, and we used him for a long, long time. John Chase also had a horse and we used to hook the two horses together and do our plowing and stuff.
There was a lot of mud on the road between our place and Mel Nutter's each spring. When the mud was bad, I used to put the collar and harness on Ned. You'd see a car go up and you'd know damn well that he was gonna be back in about 5 minutes looking for somebody to hook onto him to haul him out of the mudhole. I picked up quite a few dollars that way.
My mother bought a couple of Jersey cows from Herb Marsten one time for $25. They were off of their feed and losing weight, but she bought them. I walked the six or seven miles to his place one day to bring them home but when Herb took me in the barn to see them, I left them right there. I walked back home and said to mother "I'm not going to lead any cows up through town in that condition. I want blankets for them." We had cattle blankets in the barn, so I picked up two and walked back to Herb's place, put the blankets on the cows, and brought them home. Over on Elm Street in Ossipee, there's a place where there's red dirt with a heavy iron content. We went over there and dug half a bushel of that stuff, and hauled it home in the wagon. Three times every day and then once at night before we closed up the barn we'd take some water and a handful of that stuff, and make a ball out of it and ram it down those cows' throats. In no time those cattle were really on their feet again and they were back into real cows.
I bought my first car when I was 16, in 1922. I rode a bicycle from here to White's Garage in West 0ssipee to buy it. It was a Model T Ford touring car with a 1913 engine, 1915 running gear and a 1918 body. The engine was rebored and it would out climb any auto in town on the hills. I made several dollars starting from the bottom of Pond Hill and going over the top in high gear when someone would bet that I couldn't do it.
Sewell MacDaniel used to do a lot of work on cars in the barn in Taylor City, and then later on at Leon Marsten's shop down the road. I used to work with Sewell and learned a lot about cars: I enjoyed working on gasoline engines, both car and motorcycle engines. Even when I went to school at the South School, and he'd be down in the barn working in Taylor City, I'd sneak down at noontime and get into the grease with him. I don't know how many Model T Ford engines we pulled apart on the piazza there.
Sewell was the main one who kept encouraging me to take the examination and get into the Railway Mail Service. He said "If you don't want to wind up like I do, with no profession or anything else, you're going to have to learn a trade, and if you stay here in town, you'll end up working in the woods only half the year with no future." I'm awful glad he pushed me like that.
Chapter 9 - Seeking His Fortune
When Allen Jr. was around 17 years old, in 1923, he left Effingham to seek his fortune. He first upholstered with his father at Portsmouth's Rockingham Hotel, then moved to the Boston, Mass. area. There he worked with the Greater Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company at stores in Brookline Village and on Beacon Street for about two years, and then was made the manager of an A& P store in Belmont, Mass. After that, he worked at the U.S. Post Office at the Back Bay Annex, at the Boston City Hospital laundry, and then was appointed to the U.S. Railway Mail Service. After a long and interesting career with the Railway Mail, one that took him all throughout New England, he retired to his boyhood home.
After living several places in Massachusetts, he lived in Hudson, New Hampshire, moving in 1957-1958 to the house in Taylor City, near the South Effingham School, where Sewell MacDaniel had once worked on automobiles.
He married Dorothea Shay Daly on December 18, 1937 in Lake Township, Pershing County, Nevada; he also gained an instant family with two sons, Emery and Howard Daly. Later, Allen Frederick Crabtree III was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, on February 18, 1941. Dot died on February 13, 1972. Allen Jr. remarried, to his childhood sweetheart, Trudy MacDonald Paasche. They were married on November 22, 1972 in Nashua, New Hampshire, and again Allen gained family, this time two daughters, Sandy and Barbara.
Allen Sr. died in Boston, Mass on Nov 4, 1924, and Lena died in Effingham on June 14, 1949. Allen Jr. died in Largo, Florida on March 20, 1980, and Trudie died in Chelmsford, Mass on April 15, 1995.
Allen and Penny Crabtree
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Last updated December 29, 2002
Copyright © 2002 by Allen Crabtree
Copyright © 2002 by Allen Crabtree